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Liturgy & Liturgical Law Forum: Liturgical Dancing in the Western Church etc

by Catherine Frakas 06 Apr 2001

Liturgical Dancing in the Western Church etc QUESTION from Antonio Basto July 1, 2001
In my parish, and in many parishes in my country, as well as in open Masses (such as Masses celebrated in squares during Corpus Cristhi Day or other feast), we have liturgical dancing. It is very common. To play the music, the people responsible use drums, eletric gitars and they promote a beatles-like histeria, with people in the congregation jumping, etc. This happens in particular during masses for young people and during masses celebrated by a very famous priest who is already selling CD's with his musics (played with drums, eletronic organs, electric guitars). I am certainly a conservative when it comes to liturgy but I am no schismatic and I deplore those groups such as the SSPX who contest the authority of our legitimate and sacred Popes and Ecumenical Councils but I believe that something must also be done with respect to those who, while appearing to maintain communion with the Church, fail to listen to the Cogregatio pro Cultu Divino et Disciplina Sacramentorum, perhaps because they have a hidden agenda. Isn't it true that liturgical dancing is prohibited in the West? What can a lay member of Christ's flock do to ensure that the directives of the Apostolic See regarding the celebration of Mass are observed? I ask this because I'm very reluctant to openly discuss these matters with my parish priest or with the Archdiocese since they might think that I am being disrespectful. I can't see where in the Constitution Sacrossantum Consilium and in the Instructions for its implementation things such as liturgical dancing were authorized.
ANSWER by Mr. Jacob Slavek on July 7, 2001
Dear Mr. Basto,
The answer is EXPLICITLY NO, liturgical dancing may NOT be used. It is prohibited in western culture.
In 1975 the Congregation for the Sacraments and Divine Worship published a document titled Religious Dance, an Expression of Spiritual Joy in 1975 in it's journal, Notitiae. It is a liturgically authoritative document.
Unfortunetly, I was unable to find this document on the Internet. [Webmaster's Note: The Notitiae will be included in our Library soon]
Anyway, the document mentions that some churches have accepted the practice of dancing, but dancing always takes place outside of liturgical services. It goes on to mention some cultures where religious dance plays a role in the Liturgy. Then, it moves on to western culture:

Here, dancing is tied with love, with diversion, with profaneness, with unbridling of the senses: Such dancing, in general, is not pure. For that reason it cannot be introduced into liturgical celebrations of any kind whatever: that would be to inject into the liturgy one of the most desacralized and desacralizing elements; and so it would be equivalent to creating an atmosphere of profaness which would easily recall to those present and to the participants in the celebration worldly places and situations.
The document continues with interpretive dance:

Niether can acceptance be had of the proposal to introduce into the liturgy the so-called artistic ballet because there would be presentation here also of a spectacle at which one would assist, while in the liturgy one of the norms from which one cannot prescind is that of participation. Therfore, there is a great difference in cultures: what is well recieved in one culture cannot be taken on by another culture.
The traditional reserve of the seriousness of religious worship, and of the Latin worship in particular, must never be forbotten.
Then the document permits religious dance under the following conditions: That is take place OUTSIDE of the liturgy, (that is, outide of Holy Mass and the other liturgical services) OUTSIDE of areas which are strictly liturgical, (such as the sanctuary) and the priests to NOT participate.
So, Rome has explicitly stated the law and gave good reasons. No more questions need to be asked. Those who promote liturgical dancing are not in line with current liturgical regulations. If I or one of our readers finds this document on the Internet, I will ask about having it placed in our library.
To answer your second question, I am afraid that normally not much can be done by laymen to make the proper changes in the Liturgy. I would ask you, however, WHY are you reluctant to approach your pastor or archdiocese? So what if they think you are disrespectful? The fact of the matter is that THEY are being disrespectful by REJECTING a document of the holy church. YOU, Mr. Basto, are being the respectable one by trying to set it straight. People may hate you for it, but, if everyone loves you, then you are not doing your job properly.
With Prayers,
Mr. Slavek
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